Amateur auteurs make their debut at Home Movie Day

On Saturday, October 16th, the Chicago Film Archives (CFA), will host Home Movie Day for its eighth consecutive year at the Chicago Cultural Center.

By Katherine Stewart

It is again that time of the year—the time when the dust and lint will be cleaned from old home movies stashed away heedlessly in the crowded, forgotten corners of homes. It is the chance for communities to feast their eyes upon an eight-year-old recording of a boisterous birthday party or a recently made video on comedic improvisation.

On Saturday, October 16th, the Chicago Film Archives (CFA), in correspondence with the Chicago Cultural Center, will host Home Movie Day for its eighth consecutive year.

For seven years this global event has successfully graced the big screens of Chicago. Held every year in the Loop and Millennium Park, Home Movie Day has attracted vast crowds of people who hunger for the real, non-scripted aspects of their community’s culture.

The CFA is a non-profit organization that promotes archiving home movies and amateur films for cultural study. For Home Movie Day, the organization digs through their home movie archive to play the best they have to offer. Attendees are also encouraged to bring their own films to be projected on the big screen, albeit after a quick quality check.

Anne Wells, a processing archivist for the CFA, states that Home Movie Day is the organization’s “biggest outreach event.” It is as much about entertainment as it is about the promotion of Chicago’s art programs, as well as the preservation of Chicago culture.

Representing the Midwest region, the CFA hosts Home Movie Day with the intent to “serve institutions and filmmakers by establishing a repository for institutional and private movie collections,” said Wells.

Wells stresses that home movies demonstrate a powerful embodiment of culture that cannot be adequately expressed within a textbook or a scripted movie. Old movies chart the evolution of family legacies with a bold and unique artistry that is all their own.

Filmmakers range from proud parents documenting their child’s first steps (by themselves in general or with others on a graduation platform) to amateur documentary makers just finding their voices.

Home Movie Day is not only a chance for artists to display their cherished memories and developing documentaries. It also provides these amateur moviemakers with the guided expertise of professional movie archivists. Lessons on preserving, displaying, and archiving movies are given to participants. These include how to transfer 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm films onto DVD for trouble-free sharing, along with the proper storage techniques for long-term preservation. This priceless opportunity to improve overall movie-making abilities will only increase the quality and quantity of grassroots art for future exhibition.

The official worldwide Home Movie Day website has a quote from John Waters, a famous American filmmaker and writer, where he says that “Home Movie Day is an orgy of self-discovery.” The “accidental art”— a type of art that can only be found in banal, everyday situations—which stems from these movies has the chance to be epitomized in the eyes of hundreds of culture-hungry citizens. Home Movie Day is a celebration of the beautifully ordinary. It is a time to both appreciate and preserve for future use each and every person’s contribution to their culture.